Sunday, December 03, 2023

Donation helps feed students in need

| January 11, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A generous donation before the Christmas break helped the Lake Pend Oreille School District provide thousands of meals to students in need.

A longtime supporter of the district child nutrition program, Dennis Pence was hailed by the district for a donation of more than $19,000, marking the largest the district has seen this school year, Bobbie Coleman, LPOSD director of child nutrition, said.

“He [Pence] is passionate about children having access to enough nutritious food to live an active and healthy life,” Coleman said.

With Pence’s donation, Coleman said the district was able to purchase 2,565 breakfasts and 4,065 lunches for qualifying families.

For the nearly three decades that she has worked for the district, and “as for back as I can remember,” Coleman said Pence has been a proud and valuable ally of LPOSD.

“Mr. Pence has remained a steadfast, positive advocate for quality education and helping to combat food insecurities for children in our community,” Coleman said.

The $19,137 donation went entirely to the Child Nutrition Program, Coleman said, adding the funds dedicated to providing breakfast and lunch meals for children based on their family’s financial needs.

“Families whose income may slightly exceed the USDA income eligibility thresholds currently in place, but who are still not able to keep up with the cost of current economic inflation,” Coleman said

While this is the largest private party donation the program has received, Coleman said it’s not the only one. The district recently received $5,000 from the Moonrise Fund at Innovia Foundation and a $2,000 donation from an individual who asked to remain anonymous. This school year alone, the program has received more than $26,000 in donations.

The donations come at a time when the district's primary concern with child nutrition is food insecurity, with fewer children eating meals during the school day, Coleman said. She said this also comes in a post-pandemic time with the USDA no longer funding free school meals for all children starting this school year.

“One in five food-insecure children in Bonner County lives in a home that is likely ineligible for subsidized programs, underscoring the critical role of both the public and private sectors in addressing child food insecurity,” Coleman said. “Hunger prevents children from reaching their full potential. It takes a heavy toll on everything from their immune system to oral health and academic and social development.”

From 2017 to 2023, Coleman said the USDA income eligibility threshold for subsidized assistance with school meals has only marginally increased by $342 per month for a household of four people. Recent inflation has caused the cost of living to dramatically exceed the USDA income thresholds, further straining already struggling families, she said.

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